Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Fondue Brunch

In GrubStreet NYC's post today on chef cribs - inspiration!:

"While The Wall Street Journal takes us into Max Brenner’s Manhattan townhouse, where he throws nonalcoholic breakfast parties capped off by chocolate fondue..."

Be still my heart, Mr. Brenner, I'm totally stealing that idea!...Except for the alcohol part. No need to make any pretense about virtue when there's a tub of molten chocolate on the table at my house. This orange-infused recipe sounds like a lovely contender for the job:

Bittersweet Chocolate-Orange Fondue

Bon App├ętit | February 1997

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) grated orange peel

8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

8 1-inch pieces pound cake

8 1-inch pieces angel food cake

8 fresh strawberries, hulled

2 kiwis, peeled, each cut into 4 rounds

1 small pear, cored, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large banana, cut into 8 rounds

1 orange, peel and white pith removed, cut into sections

8 dried Calimyrna figs

8 dried apricot halves

Bring whipping cream and grated orange peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Add chopped chocolate and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier; whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove fondue from heat and blend in remaining 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier.

Transfer fondue to fondue pot. Place over candle or canned heat burner. Serve with cake pieces and fruit for dipping.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guess I'm a NoMi Girl

Funny thing. A couple of weekends ago, we went to L20 to celebrate my husband's birthday, the second of our two annual Go-Big Dinner Events. The other is our anniversary in September, when we went to NoMi last.

At L20, we had the "luxury" tasting menu - how can that qualifier not make you snort quietly to yourself? - with the wine pairings. Looking back, I feel like something was missing. The food and wine were spectacular, and given my pescatarian status, about as perfect a match as I could dream up. But the space felt somehow blank (sorry Dirk Denison, I still adore you for this) and the service was...flat and technical. Maybe it was all the beige decor and grey suits.

Comparatively, I still remember the NoMi experience vividly and how our waiter was so adept at conducting our meal while we talked about food and wine throughout the night, I wanted him to sit down for dessert. He joked that he was morose that I wouldn't take any of his recommendations. He sent over the sommelier to chat about Charbono even though our bottle was far from luxury status by their standards. He gave us his card at the end and said he would love it if we asked for him on our next visit. In short, we had an interactive experience that was, um, several hundred dollars less than L20 and somehow much more gratifying.

I would love to tell you how the L20 night stacked up against our visit to Alinea, but we were with several of our wine industry friends that night. So I actually have no recollection of the service at all. Just a lot of amazing food and laughter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taste of Next

As the opening of Next approaches on April 6th-ish (955 W. Fulton), the Achatz/Kokonas promotional machine is in full swing. Dish just published a sampling of items from the first menu. My fave is the lowly anchovy elevated to elegant status on a quail egg, done all soft a fab on the inside. Gorgeous as a Vosges truffle....not to mention personally relevant since "Aunt Chovy" is my mom's nickname to all of my cousins, and she's no slouch when it comes to presentation either.